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  • On Infernals and First Age Solars

    A lot of people seemed unhappy about talk of parallels with Green Sun Princes and First Age Solars, over in the Infernal Wish List thread. I don't expect this will change anyone's mind, but here's how I've seen it, should that help.

    EX3 Infernals as just "First Age Solars" would be dumb, so I sure am glad the EX3 team isn't doing that. I think that it's analogous to Abyssals in this regard. Even a fully informed Abyssal is unlikely to think, "Gee golly, my power sure is a dark mirror of a Solar's!" and is (slightly) more likely to think, "Gee golly, my power sure is suffused with the nature of death, destruction, and the hereafter!"* It's a statement of how they can be described in a broader narrative sense and it's something that can add a certain weight if you find it appealing, but can be largely ignored for most practical purposes if you'd rather. By the same token, the devs have said that Liminals, Getimians, and [unknown] will respectively play off the narrative themes and connections to Abyssals, Sidereals, and Lunars while maintaining their own distinct themes and playstyles. So, while a parallel can be drawn between the First Age Solars and Infernals, it's probably not the thing that will make most people say, "I want to make an Infernal."

    There was a nice quote I remember seeing, but can't seem to find, about how Infernals are about easy, casual displays of phenomenal cosmic power. The impression I get is that this is most of what they mean when the phrase "First Age Solar decadence and corruption" comes up. When a Solar Brawler throws a punch, it's a hell of a punch that will really be felt by whomever it hits. With further mastery and/or the conscious decision to throw it at the ground, it may cause some local collateral damage and injure nearby fighters or throw them off their footing. When an Infernal Brawler throws a punch, it's a hell** of a punch that will really be felt by whomever it hits, both for its force and for the nimbus of radioactive green fire blooming around it. Perhaps without further mastery or even decision, everyone close by will also have a chance of getting scorched and/or cancer.

    The impression I get is that Infernal powers display an alien glory and excess***. It's the kind of power that isn't inherently evil,**** but is able to cause a a great deal of collateral damage and unintended consequences (and not just in death and destruction; lobotomizing or reshaping people or the world fit, too) if one isn't careful with it. Restraint is a helpful capacity for any Exalt, but an Infernal probably needs it most if he or she wants to, say, fill the role of a more traditional hero. To quote one person who may broadly characterize the nature of Infernal power: "I have one speed, I have one gear: Go."

    Remember some of the Charm outlines in the Infernal Backer Preview. Subject to change, yes, but the devs took from the feedback that they were on the right track. Bear in mind also that synergies are being kept more in mind for EX3 Charms.

    - Drifting Trauma Gale turns the Infernal into a wind that's undetectable by most avenues, cannot see for the duration, and reflexively attacks whatever it encounters.
    - Ravenous Whirlwind Prana gives a bonus to attacks that break Stealth.
    - Crimson Razor Wind both ups the damage to attacks, and erases from memory anyone or anything slain/destroyed by it.
    - World-Shedding Asana, Moment Murdering Assignation, and Blood-Scenting Cyclone respectively forces everyone nearby into stealth (and makes them forget what they were doing), penalizes their combat momentum for staying in stealth, and then gives an in-range Infernal a free attack when they come out of stealth.

    It's easy to see how all of these could combine for potent attacks the Infernal has incentives to use. And it's also easy to see how careless use of these could accidentally kill a ton of people, up to and including not only a loved one, but all memory of that loved one.

    One who focuses on one's own well-being and who doesn't care -- or learns not to care -- about these negative consequences to others will probably run into fewer painful, conflicted moments along the way to getting what they want. They're also the sorts who will likely be described as corrupt and decadent by others, and that is how the First Age Solar comparison comes up. Being spoiled by vast amounts of resources from hell are meant to encourage this behavior, not to mandate it.

    * Yes, yes, EX3 Abyssals appear to start in somewhat similar places as Solars, but that's obviously not the meat of their experience.
    ** Heh.
    *** Not uniformly. Some powers may be fairly subdued, in display and effect. But I'm expecting it as a general theme throughout the set.
    **** For certain definitions of "evil," yes. Also, I'm assuming -- and grateful -- that "evil" in EX3 will no longer be all-but-objectively defined as "what the Ebon Dragon does."

    tl;dr I think the "First Age Solars" thing is being overemphasized, in comparison to the actual Infernal play experience.

    Thoughts? Musings? No real purpose I had in mind for this thread, to be clear.
    Last edited by Gaius; 03-22-2014, 09:50 PM.


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  • #2
    You know, I've made big lengthy arguments about the relevance of having somebody to stand in for the First Age Solars in the Time of Tumult to make that whole threat seem less abstract and more credible, but even then, I feel now that it's more a motif and a bit of poetic endorsement, no more literal than the Solars are literally the ancient heroes returned from death.

    If you play a Solar, you are not actually playing King Arthur come out of his cave in England's hour of need, you're playing somebody from the modern day. But the motif is evocative and references some of the actual points of what's going on, so it's worth alluding to.

    The same goes with the Infernals, and it's useful for helping root them to the setting, helping them to feel as natural as but distinct from the Abyssals, and helps connect them to the setting's version of Hell.

    An Infernal is as much Mordred as a Solar is Arthur (including the motif of how Mordred is basically who Arthur is when he succumbs to corruption and devastates his own society). Just kind of assume that Mordred gets endorsed by Hell.

    More important, though, is that it's no more overwhelming of their narrative than the Returning Arthur motif is for Solars. Right down to how, just as Solars who turn out to be heroes are doing it less because they've been bestowed with the legacy of a fallen hero and more because they're somebody who's standing out in a dying world where the establishment hates them and wants to keep its prizes away from them, Infernals are great decadent nabobs given to casual displays of power less because they're returned Corrupt First Age Solars and more because they were people exposed to and furnished by Hell (which, in this setting, is less Evil and more Cosmic Sensory Overload) who can turn into dragons that shoot sonic booms.

    It's just that there's a whole lot of resonance between different points, and mythology thrives off of resonance, and epic fantasy thrives off of mythology.


    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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    • #3
      Well, what I hope for from the new Infernals is easily-abused power, so... I think we're on the same page?


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      • #4
        Infernals (presumably) blow their chance to become heroes because of their sense of entitlement. Their narrative is about whether or not they will break their cycle of selfishness and indulgence.

        Solars are given the opportunity to become heroes and take it. Their narrative is about whether they will be able to remain heroes or abuse their power and turn into villains.

        The Solars of the First Age descended into villainy because of their sense of entitlement. It's important for the game to show what happens when people abuse their power for selfish ends, but it's also important for the Solars to start as heroes and (possibly) descend into villainy. If the game pushes Solars as villains from the start, it removes the tragedy of their legend. Infernals don't have that problem, so they can be used to manifest the excesses of the First Age in the Second Age. They also offer a completely different narrative trajectory, since they can either stay as villains or ascend into heroism, whereas Solars can remain heroes or descend into villainy. It's actually a more direct inversion of Solars than Abyssals.


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        • #5
          Personally, I think it's just as unnecessary to connect qualities of heroism to personality traits for Infernals as it is for Solars. Even if we assume that Infernals have a lot to incline them towards selfishness and indulgence, they don't necessarily preclude doing stuff that others would view as heroic, even actually beneficial, not least if less powerful people start actively exploiting your vices or whatever to get you to do stuff that winds up being beneficial for them.

          It's like, whatever kind of Exalt Alexander the Great is, if he goes charging across the length of a continent single-handedly destroying armies and nations and arbitrarily chasing down their rulers just because that's what's fun for him and he's had various childhood influences telling him he was entitled to it, and all the cultural exchanges and international institutions just kind of coalesce in his wake from skilled opportunists, who's to complain? Like, who cares if he only forged a path to India because you told him there were great tiger-headed warriors with fifty arms to fight there, your caravans can still follow after him and bring back rubies and sutras and medicines, eh?

          This is not to say that no Infernals are motivated by what at least looks like higher ideals.


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          Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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          • #6
            Solar Alexander the Great conquers everything in sight because he is the most worthy ruler of the world.

            Infernal Alexander the Great conquers everything in sight because he wants to pillage and loot.

            A Solar might come to act out of greed, and an Infernal might come to act towards higher ideals, but that's not their starting point.


            [Ex3] Why Gods Need the Exigence - Plot hooks for Exigent characters of various gods.
            [Ex3] Homebrew Solar Charms - I can see the future, and it is glorious.
            [Ex3] The Glass Library - My Exalted Third Edition Blog (Updated 24/04/2016)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Tiresias View Post
              Solar Alexander the Great conquers everything in sight because he is the most worthy ruler of the world.

              Infernal Alexander the Great conquers everything in sight because he wants to pillage and loot.
              Solar Alex conquers because he can. Infernal Alex conquers because you said he couldn't.

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              • #8
                The more people attempt to sell me on this concept, the more worried I become.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tiresias View Post
                  A Solar might come to act out of greed, and an Infernal might come to act towards higher ideals, but that's not their starting point.
                  I sure hope not!

                  One thing I can say is, I definitely don't want Solars to be the default good guys and Infernals to be the default bad guys. I had enough of that in 2nd edition.

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                  • #10
                    I was going to respond to this post in the other thread, but this thread seems like a more appropriate place.
                    Originally posted by hippokrene View Post
                    especially as the splat was previously defined by the Yozi, and FA Solars seems a serious step down.
                    This statement is everything that was wrong with 2e Infernals. I don't care what else they have as long as the aspects of them that led to this sort of thinking are killed dead. The entire reason why Infernals are being explicitly tied so tightly to First Age Solars is likely to push back against that idea.

                    The backstory of the First Age and its consequences (the rise and glory and madness of the Solars; their overthrow at the hands of the DBs and Sidereals; the empire the DBs built from its ashes and warred with the Lunars to maintain) is core to the story of Exalted. I mean -- there's a lot more in the setting (it's a huge, complicated setting, with many weird things on the periphery, including Autochthonia and, yeah, the Yozis), but the central pillar of the setting is that story.

                    When you dismiss the First Age, you're dismissing a huge amount of stuff that the game has spent most of its existence trying to build up as meaningful and important. This was the core problem that 2e Infernals had -- yeah, sure, there were other issues, but everything else was fixable. The core problem, though -- the really tough one, the one that probably got them almost thrown out of the game and which required that they get almost completely rebuilt, conceptually, in order to stay in -- was that they were built around a competing narrative in which almost everything everyone else cared about was completely unimportant, just a temporary distraction and defeat before the inevitable rise of the Yozis' heirs. The stolen thrones of the Solars? The Dragon-Blooded who occupy them now? The Sidereals who lurk in their shadows? The Lunars who have spent 1500 years gnawing at those thrones' foundations? All irrelevant because I glow green, suck my Malfean dick.

                    They don't get to say that. Hence, 3e Infernals are going to be more tightly tied to their previous incarnations as First Age Solars, specifically to work them organically into the rest of the narrative and to avoid situations where you have people defining Infernals, in their heads, as the coolest thing ever at the expense of everyone else.

                    (And your worry -- well, I mean, look. I suspect 3e Infernals will be awesome, and if you clear your mind of expectations and just get into them you'll have a lot of fun. You will still be the chosen of the architects of the universe and that will still be awesome. That said, part of the reason the GSP problem is so hard to solve is because "look at me, I'm a super-awesome rock-star and all the struggles that the setting was about previously are crap compared to me" was an excellent way to make GSPs look cool at the expense of everyone and everything else -- or, in other words, there are probably a lot of GSP fans out there who fell in love with them specifically because of that. And there is no way to tiptoe around the fact that it has to be changed.)
                    Last edited by Aquillion; 03-23-2014, 10:40 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Aquillion View Post
                      I was going to respond to this post in the other thread, but this thread seems like a more appropriate place.
                      This statement is everything that was wrong with 2e Infernals. I don't care what else they have as long as the aspects of them that led to this sort of thinking are killed dead. The entire reason why Infernals are being explicitly tied so tightly to First Age Solars is push back against that idea.
                      No it isn't. Think about it and ask yourself: what does overfocusing on the First Age, coupled with best mechanics in the game lead to?

                      Yeah. Should sound familiar. The thing is, if Infernals work as intended this time, they will completely draw the attention of everyone to First Age stuff. Why would that be a good thing? And all your tangent about how the backstory is "so unbelievably important" only proves this. It shouldn't BE important. It shouldn't BE the focus. Present should be the focus. The past is neither something possible to model in this game, nor something that should be ever described in detail.

                      Personally, I don't care. At that point in the gameline I will simply ignore them. But it's quite a shame I won't be able to ever use them. Also the community will only talk about making First Age games and they'll keep insisting that that's one and only way to play Exalted, since everything else is completely unimportant.
                      Last edited by FromBeyond; 03-23-2014, 06:27 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tiresias View Post
                        Solar Alexander the Great conquers everything in sight because he is the most worthy ruler of the world.
                        Do you mean this as an abstract thing, or as an actual assertion of Alexander's motivations in the form of some kind of ideal?

                        Like "the world would be better off if I was ruling it"?

                        'Cause I'd buy that a whole lot more if Alexander ever did a single thing that wasn't marching off to his next battle.

                        Originally posted by Tiresias
                        A Solar might come to act out of greed, and an Infernal might come to act towards higher ideals, but that's not their starting point.
                        You say that as if those things can't be synonymous. What makes the pursuit of a "high ideal" not greedy? What makes greed not functional as a high ideal?

                        More importantly, what about people like Havesh for an established character, or the protagonists of Samurai Champloo for characters who nobody has any business saying aren't good Solar inspirations?

                        Stuff like this means that I will grant one thing; it's distressing to see this idea as a thing that makes people reassign things away from Solars altogether, as if Infernals will have nothing else but being the returned mad tyrants.

                        Honestly, between this and John's little reminder that the Infernal narrative space is not identical to the Solar one (one which in no way precludes Solars acting in pursuit of greed, by the by), I am given cause to think that there's far too little for myself to actually go on in predicting Infernals.

                        Just because "returned mad tyrants" was only a single line in that preview, and more of the rest was "great demon raja", so I'm given to assume that the latter is where most of their distinct narrative will be coming from, and struggle to picture what it actually is.

                        On a final note, I'll say that the thinking of "Infernals would have this one thing, so Solars can't have it as well" is an extension of the kind of thinking that Holden once said ultimately leaves Solars with nothing.

                        Really, corrupted Solars or not, Infernals will still most likely be running on the logic of "other Exalts focus on a narrower area than Solars, so it gets more attention", same as the rest. This meaning that Solars still have that thing.

                        Yeeessss, Infernals should not be returned crazy First Age Solars to the extent and literal degree that they undermine Solars as the core group.

                        Solars can be driven by greed from the outset, because I want to play the game from the first book that I get, so these Solar characters shall be whomever I damn well say.


                        I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                        Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                        • #13
                          So long as Solars are still free to be exactly as antagonistic, self centered, difficult, dislikeable and hedonistic as humans (and humans with power and the heroes of literature) can be, then I don't see any problem with it really. Where fans start going "Oh, that character should be an Infernal" to one with those qualities is where a problem could be found.

                          The idea of the "great prince of this world", dominating, cold, obsessed with power, yet who fundamentally wants the world to exist as a place to rule and lord it over and who is enormously competent, that should remain as a Solar archetype (of many!), and a type the Unconquered Sun would choose. (Isator Levi used Oda Nobunaga as an example here).

                          Where the Infernals could draw more influence from the First Age Solars, contra this, is where the First Age Solars disdained and discarded the world in favor of the magical pleasure palaces and grandiose, dangerous world altering schemes of their imagination and vast magical resources, and used humanity as a tool to do so. The Revlidquote about disdaining "the reality of their birth" resonates here.

                          But then I'm not sure this would work well where they, as a splat, don't *actually* have particularly vast magical resources, to avoid the "All eyes on Infernals now chaps!" problem coming back.

                          As to the drama of the First Age and Usurpation as seen through an Infernals lens, to a certain degree, when people play the Abyssals, Fair Folk or Autochthonians interacting with Creation, it is *meant* to feel like the ancient, exhausted, unintelligible political squabbles of a foreign people in a foreign land. And you are the shock of the new and outside will doom them if they cannot adopt and sweep away what was and is with a revolution of their own. Infernals are like this too.

                          This isn't supposed to smother our concern with Creation's history totally (and this is arguably where the Green Sun Princes went wrong), but it is there to temper it. As one of these splats, you are the the disruptive element that recontextualizes old struggles, you are the strangely clad foreign warrior* who steps off the ship and shoots the heir to the throne in the chest, as much as you are a lost legacy of the past, returned with a vengeance.

                          *It's arguably not an accident that the Fair Folk, Abyssals, Autochthonians (and perhaps Infernals too) are able to draw on aesthetic influences which are disruptive compared to the rest of the gameline - Western "high gothic" knights for Abyssals, European steampunk mixed with Aztec for the Autochthonians, etc.

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                          • #14
                            I think Infernals could work as characters in a twisted path of redemption. They know the yozis are the rightful masters of creation and they took it from them. Now they work to redeem themselves, returning creation to its rightful owner.

                            This would tie them to the orignal backstory without basing them on it. And could still keep they easy and decadent concept, because they work is infernal morals and part of their job is to prepare creation for the return of their true masters; who cares about sideeffects if the world is so fucked up right now.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by FromBeyond View Post
                              No it isn't. Think about it and ask yourself: what does overfocusing on the First Age, coupled with best mechanics in the game lead to?

                              Yeah. Should sound familiar. The thing is, if Infernals work as intended this time, they will completely draw the attention of everyone to First Age stuff. Why would that be a good thing? And all your tangent about how the backstory is "so unbelievably important" only proves this. It shouldn't BE important. It shouldn't BE the focus. Present should be the focus. The past is neither something possible to model in this game, nor something that should be ever described in detail.

                              Personally, I don't care. At that point in the gameline I will simply ignore them. But it's quite a shame I won't be able to ever use them. Also the community will only talk about making First Age games and they'll keep insisting that that's one and only way to play Exalted, since everything else is completely unimportant.
                              Primordial War started the spiral of uprising and betrayal at the center of Creation's mythic cycle, but the First Age and Usurpation were the culmination of this cycle, in that they set in motion the events that shape the setting and set up problems heroes still have to deal with. This is the core thesis of the game - you can't have Solars as God-Kings reborn and heroes of yore returned if there wasn't an age of heroic god-kings that ultimately tore itself apart from the inside.

                              2e dropped the ball on this not by bringing attention to the First Age, but by getting all technical matter-of-fact on what was supposed to be the age of myths and legends - and making said outlook seem cool by backing it up with a bazillion awesome toys people loved to get their hands on. Incidentally, it's exactly the way 2e Infernals blew the Yozis out of proportion. In either case, it's not the focus that's wrong, it's the execution that's flawed.

                              Your primary assertion that the game should focus on the present is fundamentally correct, but your proposed method of achieving it is reactionary and needlessly restricting. If presented right, both Primordial War and the First Age can serve to strengthen and enrich the contemporary setting and it's importance. It'd be shameful to ditch that opportunity just because the previous attempt was less than stellar.

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